MSU wants Michigan to tilt at windmills. Specifically, a new report from the university's Land Policy Institute evaluated the state's "potential offshore wind energy resource capacity." It concluded that Michigan "could produce more than 10 times the amount of current peak electricity if nearly 100,000 offshore wind turbines operated along the Great Lakes." All told, the report estimated that "Michigan's portion of the Great Lakes" could potentially generate as much as 321,936 Megawatts of electricity from offshore wind (report at 12). (The prior estimate was 16,500 megawatts (report at 1).)
source: Michigan's Offshore Wind Potential at 14
Simply put, this is nuts. The report's high-end assumptions would populate tall turbines over huge portions of Lake Michigan. As Planet Gore's Greg Pollowitz observes:
Just exactly where are they going to put these 100,000 turbines? The largest wind farm in Texas has about 400 or so turbines on 47,000 acres. If every turbine needs 100 acres or so, we're talking 10,000,000 acres on the lakes. There's no way this would ever pass.Can you imagine the effect on commercial shipping, not to mention sailing and pleasure boats? Or on beaches and marinas? Even were the proposed 150 meter-height turbines (see report at 6) moved back (report at 11), they would still be visible up to 44 km from shore [d = √(13 * (heightobserver + heightobject))].
It's risky to rely on a university's windmill recommendation, as reflected in the September 30th Japan Times:
The Tokyo District Court ordered Waseda University on Monday to pay some ¥200 million [about $1.9 million] in damages to the city of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, because windmills installed at schools there, based on the university's plan, failed to generate the amount of electricity expected.I'm willing to concede that windmills might be part of the solution--a small part--only beyond the Kennedy family's line of sight.
The city entrusted the university in 2004 with compiling a basic program for wind generation as part of its efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and set up 23 small windmills at elementary and junior high schools at a cost of some ¥300 million.
The power output was substantially lower than expected, prompting the city to seek ¥300 million in compensation from the Tokyo university and the company that built the windmills.
Thankfully, windmills may be an early casualty of the financial meltdown.